On the couch, coffee table, chair and floor of the hotel room there are six open suitcases in preparation for travelling to London. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon. A warm breeze blows through the sliding glass door cracked open, harnessing the sound of crashing waves. As I look up from a stack of sweaters I am folding, my eyes linger over a wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and down eleven floors to a crowd of bikini clad college girls sunbathing on the beach.
My coat and scarf lay on the unmade bed. Everything I’ve known as familiar will change in twelve hours. I envision myself living on the other side of that ocean the same way I have every day for more than a year.
How do you know a waiting season is over?
The same way foliage tells you spring is coming. One day you wake up from deafening silence to bird song; from barren branches to leaves unfurling and buds blushing with promise.
All at once the quiet bleakness of spiritual winter becomes a harmony sung from the heavens. Suddenly you are in a whirlwind of answered prayers, swept up in the joy of birth. An amnesiac to the pain you just suffered.
Last week, we loaded a container with our possessions and moved out of the home that has been a sanctuary for our lengthy wilderness season. The place where our children grew into adulthood; where our beloved dog passed and we tasted the fruit of Sabbath rhythms.
After nearly seven years, we closed the door on carpet, paint and nail holes where I have lived longer than any other place in my entire life.
And then we said goodbye to the van holding twelve years of family memories when our longtime friend from Nashville met us at the hotel in Myrtle Beach to drive it back to his family.
We signed papers for the sale of our house, disconnected the cable, sent mail to a forwarding address and hugged our first-born back to college. We parted with neighbors and gave instructions to take out the the trash one last time for us.
I watched my son receive a goodbye hug from each of his best friends on the front lawn of their house while wiping tears from the corners of my eyes, underneath sunglasses.
I won’t even begin to tell you how my H has taken care of a bevy of details like international phone numbers, navigating public transportation and bank accounts because my head swims when I think about the amount of new information his brain can hold without confusion.
What I can tell you with confidence is this. What is hidden in the wilderness of waiting becomes a cherished kindness of God’s intimate grace when you look back. That is the truth about redemption.
Spring reminds us that God’s promises are worth the wait. In Christ we are never forgotten, abandoned or overlooked.
No matter how bleak the situation, resurrection is coming.
Four days ago, we landed in London blurry eyed from a lack of sleep, weary from the details of moving but expectant about what awaits. Our suitcases lie partially emptied on the floors of a temporary house with high ceilings, big windows and small sinks.
We wear boots, carry umbrellas and use Oyster cards on buses and trains instead of filling up a gas tank.
My first grocery trip was a three hour instruction on shopping English thanks to my new friend Jan. The language is the same and then it’s not. Can I tell you how excited choices make me about all the recipes I can blow the dust off?
Trees around London look as though branches are sprinkled with white and pink confetti. Metaphors are all around us declaring a new season. Everything and nothing changes. Are you noticing the messages He is sending to you daily?
Last night, during our third worship service at St. Barnabas, the entire group of people that gathered for worship circled around us. Ages and ethnic backgrounds converged into the communion of saints, bowing heads and praying heartfelt, humble prayers over our family.
We were strangers and yet we were not because our names were familiar to them, that was obvious.
Prophetic, life giving, intimate words of hope and future were spoken but it wasn’t the first time they uttered H and Shelly and Harrison and Murielle. God was preparing them for our arrival all those months we were waiting in South Carolina.
Waiting isn’t only about you and your unique scenario but all the people and places God is preparing with divine purpose.
Jesus is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow, even when everything around us is a whirlwind.
When you are tempted to force providence remember that a life that trusts deeply in Jesus despite circumstance will eventually bloom in abundance. The beauty is in God’s timing. Waiting, it turns out, is a privilege.
While everything has changed for me lately and I am finding a new writing rhythm during our transition to England, nothing will change regarding the blog and communication with you here and on social media. I look forward to sharing more about what it means to be an ex-pat living in the heart of London throughout the coming weeks.
I feel like I just closed the hardbound cover after savoring the last page of a well read book. My heart is thrilled the waiting is over and you are safely at home across the pond. So ready for the sequel. . . mind the gap, keep calm and write on! Love and miss you!
What a lovely thing to say Kristin. I’m honored. Love you and miss you too! I think of you often and appreciate your prayers so much my dear friend. God is good.
Shelly it is truly wonderful that hearts have been preparing for your arrival and that you have been prayed for with such love. I hope you are able to record the words given so you can see them being fulfilled. Shopping, cooking, worshiping, everything is new and different but God has prepared your hearts to love it all. You will soon be spelling words the English way…. favour, Saviour,colour etc….haha. Loving on your from afar and praying Harrison will love his new school and soon have some great friends,. abd you also. Love to you all.
Wouldn’t be here without you Mary. You prayed us to London and the fruit of being here is yours to savor too. I’m so thankful for you!
I could say I’m jealous, I could say I’m green with envy, but I’m not either of those things. Instead I am so glad you are where God called you to be a light in a dark place. He called you to go to the place where He knows you are needed and need to be. Praying God’s blessings on every walk in the rain, every stop at the til, and every tube stop you wait at.
Thank you for your generous words Nancy, we covet your prayers. We see God with us in all aspects and we are excited about what He has planned for us.
I love hearing through your words the peace and excitement of this new adventure…looking forward to hearing this unfolding story….and I did not realize you had connections in Nashville…it’s where I live.
Some of dearest friends live in Nashville Ro. Didn’t realize you live there too.
Is this where the party is? I hope so! 31 Days to London was never to be. Like Kristin said, the journey read more like a book— many people and circumstances coming together to bring the story to the prologue, How beautiful is this new beginning—the next story. Jeff and I couldn’t be more happy for you and H and all who will be blessed through your passion for Jesus and your heart to love people in His glorious Name.
Even though we 31 Days to London didn’t have the happy ending we hoped for, moving in March feels like God’s providence. And I think writing it out back in October was too! We wouldn’t be here without your love and support Dea, I’m so thankful for your friendship.
I thought that that view along the beach was on the other side of the ocean. But apparently, it isn’t. Or is it?! What’s an ocean anyway between friends? Yes, it’s the same, it’s different, it’s all of that. What an adventure in trusting God you’ve had, Shelly. I marvel at his faithfulness–and yours. You and H are Abraham and Sarah, and you went “without knowing.” You literally staked everything you had on God’s direction and provision and He fed you manna and has led you to the promised land (if across the ocean). And I love how He orchestrated that you would meet pilgrims along the way to give you hope and encouragement, and how He had a whole welcoming party to embrace you. I love how this new family loves you as much as we–already! Oh God is so faithful. I’m so glad that the blog won’t change. I keep reading about how blogs are passe and how authors are poised to stop writing them. But blogging is how I met you and blogging is how I will continue to watch the unfolding of your story like the blossoms of spring. Oh to be in England, now that April’s [nearly] here! I love that poem. Sending you so much love and a bright and happy cheerio!
PS Is that HARRISON?!
Hey Shelly…May I be a tad lazy today and just “echo” Lynni’s words??? I agree with everything she’s written here, including the question, “Is that HARRISON?!” If it is, he’s done a LOT of changing!
I am so happy, so excited for this new chapter in your lives. What a wonderful beginning for your new ministry there, the loving family of God over there embracing, welcoming y’all. You are Home, finally. Can’t tell you how much I look forward to your writings from London! And yes, you’ll soon be spelling words the English (AND CANADIAN) way, which will be so fun to see.
All of God’s richest blessings to you, H, and Harrison. Love you, Shelly! HE is faithful to complete what He has begun in you.
Lovely to see you here Jillie. I’ve met several Jillies since arriving. Some spell it Gilly. I’ve thought of you every single time someone by that name has introduced themselves!
The view of the beach is Myrtle Beach in South Carolina taken from our eleventh floor hotel room. The story of Abraham and Sarah helped to sustain me on many days of despair; their journey gave me hope in happy endings. You would love London right now Lynn, lots of trees beginning to bloom and the sun has come out for a bit every day. It’s so lovely. But you already know that.
And no, that isn’t Harrison in the photo. It’s our friend who bought the van.
So delighted to see “Redemption’s Beauty” in my inbox today, knowing you’d likely be writing from London–for the first time! Praise God you have arrived, settling yourselves where your hearts have been for some time, And as always, tucked within your story here are treasures of wisdom. Especially meaningful to me: “A life that trusts deeply in Jesus despite circumstance will eventually bloom in abundance. The beauty is in God’s timing. Waiting, it turns out, is a privilege.” Thank you, Shelley.
I’m so thankful for your love and prayers Nancy. We’re still finding it surreal that we actually live in London. We’re enjoying every single drop of it.
Shelly this brings me such delight to read. And it gives me hope. I’m grateful for having been able to watch this whole process unfold, and though the waiting was so hard, the beauty of redemption pales the struggle. Celebrating this new season with you, and looking forward to what God is doing.
You’ve been with me through the entire journey Kris, the good days and bad ones. I’m so thankful for your friendship, you are a gift to me.
Thank you for this, Shelley. It was timely for me in a waiting season of my own.
I’m thankful this was a timely read for you Devi. If you are ever in London, we must meet!
Greatly welcomed your post today, culminating your saga of determined faith these past months. Personal testimonies of experiencing the grace of God in our lives are the most authentic and strongest tools to reaching those whose faith flickers dimly. Let your “pen” continue to flow.
Your comment blesses me Lisa, thank you.
all I can say is wow. What a testimony. Thanks for sharing your journey.